Convicted ex-Congressman Chris Collins will soon be headed to prison to serve a 26-month sentence for insider trading and lying to the FBI.
The sentence was a little light for our tastes, but at least he’s facing tangible punishment for his crimes and for violating the trust of the people he was elected to serve.
This month, convicted ex-state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his co-conspirator son are likely scratching the number “1” into the concrete walls of their prison cells to mark their first year behind bars of a four-year sentence for bribery, conspiracy and extortion. .
But one such criminal, who was twice convicted of using his powerful political office to make millions of dollars for himself in exchange for his influence as one of the three most powerful men in state government has inexplicably been allowed to remain free while appealing his 2018 conviction on extortion, money laundering and other charges.
All the while he’s been free, he’s been able to live at his luxury apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, go to the market, stroll through the park, while making do on the $6,600-a-month pension ($79,222 a year) bought and paid for by New York taxpayers.
Not a lot of people get convicted of felonies and are allowed to continue living their lives while the courts sort through their appeals. Many people, in fact, have spent decades in prison appealing their convictions.
But Sheldon Silver was different.
Unlike his fellow criminal counterparts in the state Senate and Congress, the former speaker of the state Assembly hasn’t had to spend a day in jail waiting on his appeal.
Special privileges like that are only awarded to the most powerful people. The people who’ve used their offices to curry the most favor over time. The people with connections in high places.
On Tuesday, a federal appeals court finally came down with a ruling on Silver’s appeal, upholding four of the seven charges against him — honest services mail fraud, wire fraud, extortion, and money laundering — in connection with a scheme to support a real estate developer’s position on rent regulations in exchange for some $4 million in bribes.
It’s long past time for Silver to face the punishment. No more bail while he appeals to another court. No more luxury apartment living.
Such dispensation undermines the public’s confidence in the legal system and in government itself, and only serves to allow, if not encourage, such behavior from others in such positions.
No more breaks for Sheldon Silver.
It’s time he finally pay for his crimes.